February 4, 2014 | 7 a.m.
By Suzanne McInroy, Director of Communications
In mid-December, a generous donor helped Bethel University purchase a 200,000-square-foot building at 2 Pine Tree Drive in Arden Hills. The building is more commonly known as Country Financial, the business who owned the property. In addition, the location has 42 acres of land and 777 surface level parking spots. The property is a campus-like setting, and is located a little more than one mile from Bethel’s main campus.
“The purchase of this building is momentous in the history of the university. It addresses many of the needs identified in the Campus Master Plan at a cost that is dramatically lower than the cost of new construction,” President Jay Barnes wrote in an email to faculty and staff. “It will address immediate space concerns for the College of Adult & Professional Studies and the Graduate School, provide the potential for more than a 50% increase in our core classroom space, allow us to meet better the needs of growing programs, and support the launch of strategic new programs.”
Because the City of Arden Hill’s zoning code did not allow the building to be used for higher education purposes, Bethel went through an extensive process to receive a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) before occupying the building, explains Kathleen Nelson, senior vice president for finance and administration. Bethel received the CUP in late November, clearing the way for the purchase. The CUP contains several conditions, including an agreement that as part of the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s plan to replace the County Road E bridge over Highway 51, the city will construct an extension to the bike and pedestrian trail system from Bethel’s west entrance to Pine Tree Drive.
In January, Bethel moved approximately 18,500 square feet of classroom and office space into Pine Tree for College of Adult & Professional Studies and the Graduate School (CAPS/GS) programs, including the physician assistant program. The building is also occupied by several tenants with leases extending through 2018 and some with lease renewal options.
This spring the Bethel community will reexamine the needs and priorities identified in the Campus Master Plan to incorporate the new space at Pine Tree. Complete Bethel occupancy of Pine Tree is expected to take 12 to 15 years.
“Bethel’s Campus Master Plan, completed in 2012, identified approximately $200 million in new construction that would accommodate current needs as well as anticipated growth of Bethel over a period of two decades,” says Pat Mazorol, senior vice president for university relations, who has been heavily involved with the purchase of Pine Tree. “Pine Tree may effectively allow Bethel to access the same amount of identified space needs at half the cost and in less time.”
An investor in Bethel has stepped forward to allow Bethel to purchase Pine Tree without incurring debt, using additional operating funds, or using previously designated funds held by Bethel, adds Mazorol. The donor wishes to remain anonymous.